08/24/2006 11:00PM

Looks like it's all Stone Rain


ALBANY, Calif. - Not that he needs any, but Stone Rain has two big advantages over his four rivals in Sunday's Golden Gate Fields feature: pace and recency.

The feature, which goes as the day's first race and kicks off a $50,000 guaranteed pick four, is a six-furlong allowance sprint. Four of the five runners are stakes winners and the fifth is stakes-placed.

Two of the runners, Yougottawanna and Argentine import Mi Rey, have spent more than a year on the sidelines. Stellar Magic returns from a seven-month layoff. Even Real Temptation has not run in almost seven weeks.

Recency aside, no one can match Stone Rain's quickness. He routinely runs sub-45-second half-miles, something only Stellar Magic can do on his best days.

The 4-year-old Stellar Magic began his career with three victories in four starts for owner-trainer Brian Pitnick, including last year's $100,000 San Mateo Mile.

He was unleashing a strong move in the El Camino Real Derby when he had to steady hard at the quarter pole, losing all momentum, and was virtually eased. Stellar Magic then went to the sidelines for nearly nine months. After three sprints, he was sidelined again, but he has worked strongly for his comeback.

Stellar Magic may be the only horse that can challenge Stone Rain early, and Pitnick is glad he is drawn just outside the speedster, in post 2.

"I know it's a tough spot, but I wanted to get the race to fill so I'm happy I don't have to ship somewhere for his first start," Pitnick said. "He's ready to run."

The strategy will be simple for regular rider Dennis Carr.

"We're going to put him into the race early," Pitnick said.

Not that Pitnick expects to be going head-to-head with Stone Rain, but he said thinks Stellar Magic will lay second.

"I'd love to see someone else go with him," Pitnick said, adding that he doesn't feel either Yougottawanna or Real Temptation have enough speed to push Stone Rain.

Though Stellar Magic won his debut in wire-to-wire style, defeating future stakes winner Loyalton, Pitnick said he thinks he's best sitting back a bit and unleashing a strong late kick. That's the trip Stellar Magic is likely to get Sunday.

The fifth member of the field, Mi Rey, shows some solid works at Del Mar, including a five-furlong work in 58.80 seconds, but without any detailed past performance lines from South America, it's difficult to ascertain his running style.